The Modernization of the University of Oregon’s Historic Straub Hall

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Building Group provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering services to help usher the University of Oregon’s Straub Hall into the 21st century.


  • Size: 58,000 square feet
  • Construction Cost: $44 million
  • Client/Owner: University of Oregon
  • Architect: Rowell Browkaw & Opsis Architecture
  • Completion Date: 2015

Originally designed in 1928 as a dormitory and repurposed in the 1970s as a classroom facility for the psychology department, Straub Hall required modernization to meet the needs of faculty and students.

The university operates with an aggressive energy policy for its campus renovations. They must achieve a minimum of LEED Gold certification, operate at 30 percent above the Oregon energy code, and maintain a flat-line in energy usage compared to the building’s original mark. Additionally, the university needed the classic look and feel of Straub Hall’s historic brick facade to remain intact. The challenge became transforming a nearly century-old dormitory into a modern academic facility while maintaining its Colonial Revival aesthetic.

Tetra Tech’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing engineering, and construction management teams worked with the school to achieve these goals. Low-profile systems were heavily used in Straub Hall’s attic and basement spaces to maintain the integrity of the original design throughout the interiors. Active chilled beams used water from the facility’s existing central plant for small, easily hidden pipes through which air is passed to cool the interiors. A state-of-the-art lecture hall was added on to the u-shaped building to help accommodate 1,000 more classroom seats.

Tetra Tech also provided lighting design for the project by integrating a large skylight. The large skylight maximizes the daylight and provides a biophilic connection for the students and professors, which improves overall attentiveness and productivity. The lecture hall also features three connected HD projection screens above the white boards at the front of the space. A louvre system gives users the ability to shade the skylight to darken the room, and a system of adjustable LED lights provide the flexibility to keep the white boards illuminated while the room is dark for the projectors. The LEDs, combined with advanced controls that give Straub Hall’s facility management near total control over the system, make the room five times more energy efficient than the standard system on the University of Oregon campus. Lighting in the vintage lobby was reconfigured by integrating fixtures on top of the existing crown molding to illuminate the ceiling and the artwork that has adorned the walls for several years.

The project was recognized with the IIDA Oregon Chapter 2018 Design Excellence Award.

Images courtesy of Christian Columbres